Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Trump visit: President stuns allies into silence with threats over Nato spending

Trump is flanked by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left and national security adviser John Bolton during a press Trump visit: President stuns allies into silence with threats over Nato spending
Melinda Barton | 13 July, 2018, 06:44

Trump is reported to have spoken of "grave consequences" if allies did not meet their 2 percent of GDP defense spending targets, saying that the United States could "go our own way" if his demands were not met.

At the end of the first session of a two-day summit, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the aim first was to reach 2 percent, but moments later Trump tweeted that allies were undercutting the U.S. on trade and needed to immediately boost spending.

At NATO, Trump did not specify which countries had committed to what, and it remained unclear whether any had changed their plans. This is precisely why North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, for example, rallied behind the U.S. in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks and has sent many troops to fight and die in places like Afghanistan over the years. But, several sources said, Trump instead reopened in strong terms his demand that other countries spend more immediately.

Now, never more vividly apparent than in his behavior Wednesday, President Donald Trump seems perfectly inclined to dismantle it, if that serves his objective. He said the allies had confirmed their intention to meet the goal of 2 per cent by 2024 and no more.

The Nato leaders, gathered in Brussels, held an unplanned emergency meeting earlier on Thursday after Mr Trump told allies to immediately increase their defence spending, diplomatic sources said.

Gardner made the remark during an interview on Fox News conducted ahead of Monday's scheduled one-on-one meeting between President Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

The mood then appeared to calm as the summit went into its second day, set to focus mainly on ending the long war in Afghanistan, with low expectations, showing the extent of European frustration with Trump's "America first" policies among the other 28 members of the alliance. Presumably, that would include the United States, which Trump contended pays up to 90 percent even though defense budget experts put the American contribution in the mid-60s. Energy exports represent Russia's main source of revenue, and Trump argues that the pipeline undermines NATO's objective, as it's created to counter Russian aggression.

"The allies have heard his message loud and clear", he told CNN, saying Trump's demands are "having a real impact". "It's very detailed", French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel called for "fair play" and more respect for multilateralism. "He generally dislikes the Alliance and Allied solidarity, the very principle of an alliance and mulitlareral frameworks", she said.

With that, Trump moved on to the United Kingdom, where significant protests against him were expected.

"At some point, they're going to call us and say, 'Let's make a deal, '" Trump said of the Iranian government.

Though the insult will hardly engender warmth from German chancellor Angela Merkel, who Trump is due to meet later today, German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen seemed relatively unperturbed.

Woody Johnson, the USA ambassador to the United Kingdom, dismissed the significance of the protests, telling Fox News that one of the reasons the two countries are so close "is because we have the freedoms that we've all fought for".

'We're going to sit down for a half hour interview.

"We didn't know what to expect, it was a positive outcome", he said of the dinner in a Brussels park, where leaders were treated to an acrobatic display and saxophone music.